Whether you think it is, as Apple describes it, a “breakthrough digital device” or not, the company’s new
iPod has people talking. And talking. And talking.
Apple and MacCentral are no exception. Recently, Apple product manager Greg Joswiak spoke with us about the device’s potential, pricing and Windows compatibility.
Joswiak said that Apple decided to develop the iPod when they looked at the music accessory category and found it really enticing. Plus, since no one was “doing it right,” the company decided they would.
“There was no real leader just blowing people away in the important area of portable music players,” said Joswiak. “We saw an opportunity to do it right. Plus, the iPod fully matches Apple’s digital hub strategy. And there were no other solutions out there that fully took advantage of what the personal computer can do.”
He said that Apple focused on three “breakthroughs” in developing the iPod:
Ultra-portability: It’s 6.5 ounces and can fit into a pocket.
Apple’s legendary ease of use: “We wanted to make the entire experience something anyone can use,” Joswiak said. “Other products in this niche can be sort of tricky to use and non-intuitive. The iPod has about a one-minute learning curve.”
Audio synchronization: “What has been problematic for people using portable music devices is how to get songs onto the device,” Joswiak said.
“With the iPod, all you have to do is plug its FireWire cable into your Mac and in under 10 minutes your entire music library can be transferred over. Make changes to playlists in your iTunes library and the next time you plug in the iPod, it quickly syncs with whatever changes you’ve made. There’s no special configuration or difficult setup.”
The iPod is also fast. Joswiak says it’s over 30 times faster than USB-based music players. Plus, its FireWire cable is of the six-pin variety so the iPod’s battery charges when it’s connected to your Mac (thought it also ships with an external power adapter in case you’re on the road without a Mac).
“The FireWire connection can charge the iPod battery as fast as its power adapter,” Joswiak said. “This is a tremendous breakthrough, as no one else has created a product that charges over FireWire.”
Some folks have criticized the US$399 price tag of the iPod. However, Joswiak said that the folks who have held and used the iPod don’t complain. They see the value it offers, he said.
“We knew we had to introduce it at a price point in the consumer range,” Joswiak explained. “And $399 is smack in the middle of this price range. There are other MP3 jukeboxes that cost this. And for the ones that don’t, but that use storage cards, it doesn’t take long to reach that price point to reach the capacity we’re offering.”
He said that Apple wasn’t trying to offer the cheapest product, but the one with the highest value. With the iPod’s FireWire capabilities, capacity and size (“it’s the smallest and lightest device of its type on the market”), Joswiak feels they’ve achieved this. Plus, the iPod is much more than an MP3 player.
It can double as a FireWire hard drive. Enable the FireWire disk mode option and it mounts on the desktop. You can use it as you would any other 5GB hard drive. In fact, you can use it to store files and as an MP3 player. It’s “entirely dynamic” and has no problem in juggling between files, Joswiak said.
Apple also designed the iPod with intellectual copyrights in mind. It’s designed to sync with one iTunes library at a time. It “recognizes” and alerts you if you connect it to a Mac with a different library. If you buy a new Mac, transfer your iTunes to it, then auto sync with your iPod, it will erase the song library stored on it and load the “new” one.
“This means if you take your iPod to someone else’s house, you can’t just suck out their songs and store them into your song library,” Joswiak said. “It will load their songs, but it will erase your song library in doing so.”
The iPod isn’t compatible with any other music jukebox software besides iTunes 2.0. And if you’re using the iPod as a FireWire hard drive and drag and drop MP3 files to it, they’ll be stored as data, but won’t be added to the song library. The only way to do this is through iTunes 2.0.
That’s why Apple hasn’t determined whether or not to bring the iPod to the Windows market. One of the advantages of the new device is that Apple controls all components for the Mac experience: the hardware, the operating system and the software. The integration makes everything work seamlessly, Joswiak said.
“We are talking about Windows compatibility, but how hard will that be to do?” he said. “The experience won’t be the same. It won’t offer as good an experience because there are components we can’t control, such as the operating system. But we haven’t ruled it out.”
Whatever they do in regards to Windows systems, Apple doesn’t think Windows compatibility is vital to the iPod’s success.
“Right now, we’re focusing on making lots of iPods for Mac users,” Joswiak said. “We’ve distributed over six million copies of iTunes so we think that every one we make will be gobbled up over the holiday season.”
For the same reasons, Apple isn’t planning on offering a software developer kit. There’s no need as it’s an integrated solution, Joswiak said.
There have also been complaints that Apple should have included a belt clip with the iPod. However, Joswiak said they felt the device would find its way mainly into pockets. And he has no doubt that third parties will make a belt clip if there’s demand.